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Ask Slashdot: Explaining Version Control to Non-Techincal People

billius (1188143) writes | about a year ago

2

billius (1188143) writes "I was recently hired (along with another guy) as a web developer at a large university. Our job is to build tools to support the social science researchers on our team. When I got here the codebase was an unholy mess: the formatting was terrible, there were .bak files scattered everywhere and there was no version control system in place. We quickly went to work cleaning things up and implementing new features. My boss was so pleased with our work that she took us out to lunch. During lunch, she asked us if there were any additional tools we needed to do our job more efficiently. We both told her that version control was an invaluable tool for any kind of software development, but had a difficult time describing to her what exactly version control was. I attempted to explain that it created a log of all the changes made to the code and allowed us to make sure that multiple developers working on the same project would not step on each other’s toes. I don’t think we really got through to her and a few weeks passed with us hearing nothing. Today we were asked by another supervisor if we needed any additional tools and we went through the same spiel about version control. She suggested that we try to write up a brief description of what we wanted and how much it would cost, but I’m drawing a blank an how exactly to describe version control to a person who isn’t very technical, let alone a developer. Does anyone out there have any tips on how to sell version control to management?"

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2 comments

I have explained it as a database. (1)

Maintenance Goof (1487053) | about a year ago | (#41457511)

The database analogy works pretty well for bean counters of all types. Without locks and other methods of keeping track on a database, If you have an entry up while I change it and save the change, they you will not see my change and when you save your change, my input is lost., This can produce bugs further down the line. If I make a change and it is not shown to you, then your change can be made with incomplete data. Two corrections, that might on their own, move a record to being more accurate, can multiply inaccuracy if they are not coordinated. A program or system configuration can be a very complex and dynamic collection of data that has to remain coherent in ways that would make most databases unusable. Revision control is the complex system equivalent of database index, backup, and security.

David's advanced revision control system (1)

pen-helm (1619273) | about a year ago | (#41457605)

I haven't used it, but I understand that "darcs" (David's advanced revision control system) allows you to activate and deactivate individual changes, rather then just pick from a series of snapshots. It is free, and it says it runs under Windows, Mac and Unix. http://darcs.net/ [darcs.net]

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